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first time on a black diamond/steeper terrain. Advice?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

What general advice would you give me when I want to go ski on a black diamond slope (or a very steep blue trail) for the first time?

I am a recreational intermediate skier, and until now I've been skiing mostly blue terrain. I occassionally ski 1 or 2 runs on green terrain to warm up or to ski with my Wife or friends.

I'm looking for more fun and excitement now, so I want to transition to steeper terrain. What I want to know is, where do I start? I don't have any close friends who are good skiers to ask for help.

I am planning some lessons later this season, but I would really like the basics - i.e.:

what kind of turns should I strive for? Short radius, or wide sweeping ones, or "medium" ?

Should I look for certain characteristics in chosing which trail to try?

Are the specific techniques I should practice first - maybe ways to control speed etc. ?

Basically, what should be my first steps/priorities to keep when I set out for my first black-diamond run?

I would really appreciate any advice from the great community of instructors and fine skiers on the board.

post #2 of 19

Get really good a short radius carved turns. NOT SKIDDED!
Do 100's in a row! Down the fall line.

Develope your methods on runs that you are comfortable with!

When you can change your turn anytime, right to left, left to right in mid stride, steeper stuff will not be a problem, and you can get on with the fun. It will still be steep!

Try the groomed stuff first, then the natural runs

Ski with an eagerness to embrace gravity. Lead with your head, the rest will follow!

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Er, Ok...lets say I've done all that prep work, and am actually heading for the black-diamond run right now. What else do I need to know, what should my expectations be?

post #4 of 19
I'd be happy to ski with you. This is more or less the progression I would use to bring you to steeper terrain:

1. Practice long radius turns on easy terrain. Focus on letting your skis slide as fast as they can (without scrubbing off speed) but maintain speed control by staying with the turn long enough that the skis come across the hill enough to slow down before you start the new turn. Become more comfortable with speed, as on steeper pitches you will accelerate rapidly.

1a. Practice hockey stops, and sideslips.

2. When you first ski a steep trail (whatever that means to you), stop, stand still on the trail and relax. Start your first turn with whatever movement is most comfortable to you. For me, that means picking up my uphill ski and putting it down on edge (in a wedge) and extending the same leg. The important thing is that your first turn have a nice round shape, and that you stay in the turn until you come to a complete stop. (You can let your skis run down the hill a little, and even pick up a little speed, but if you stay with your turn you can be confident that you will eventually turn back up the hill to a stop.)

3. Stop, re-balance, relax and start another turn in the oppsite direction. Repeat as often as necessary.

Most beginning extreme skiers finish their turns a little in the backseat, so they start their next turn in the backseat and finish a little more in the backseat. Inevitably, this leads to disaster. Stopping and rebalancing lets you start each turn in a balanced stance. When you are comfortable enough with the pitch that you ski it confidently, without stopping, it's time to look for steeper terrain.

post #5 of 19
Can I add one:

Use your poles!

Whether you're charging down the run, or taking it easy, pole plant each turn, and make them solid plants.
If you lose your nerve, you can even plant the pole and turn on it - you know, like you did when first learning to use the pole - stick it in the ground and hold on to it as it pulls you around (OK, there's probably a better way to describe it, but that will work)

Oh, and make sure you have fun!

Hope this helps,

post #6 of 19
Take lessons earlier in the season rather than later.
post #7 of 19
I'll add something to the poles. PLant your pole down the hill from your feet, keep some distance between your feet and the pole basket. planting too close to your feet will cause you to have to ski forward and around before you can start your next turn. The same goes for planting next to your skis further up towards the tips. You have to ski forward to get out of the way of the pole. It can also cause your upper body get thrown by your pole being in the way. Planting down the hill will get you Center of Gravity moving towards the next turn without being in the way.

Short turns; practice all types. skiddy and carved. Practice sideslip, short turn, sideslip, short turn ect. Remember you will stop if just keep turning up the hill. Practice this on steeper uncrowded blues also. Turn till you stop, in both directions. For along ways down the run. Remeber, you can stem to start your turns on really steep terrain, you won't go to jail. You can also do what Mermer Blakeslee calls lowering the task. Sideslip if you need to, then stem a turn sideslip ect., gradually building up rythym. Talk to yourself. Tell yourself out loud what to do, and when. This really can help, it's helped me in the past.

For terrain, try to fin a black run that's not crowded and next to some easier terrain. Maybe you can go back and forth between the two, slowly working into the steeper terrain. Each time you venture onto the black spend a little more time on it. Maybe you just startt out jumping into ungroomed terrain next to a blue groomer. Pick the steeper sections to play with, then back to the blue groomer. Just dable at first after you are well warmed up and practiced with some short turns ect. Keep it fun, and finish the day back on familliar groomers. [img]smile.gif[/img]

[ December 17, 2002, 09:49 AM: Message edited by: Ric B ]
post #8 of 19
Originally posted by Jfiz:
Er, Ok...lets say I've done all that prep work, and am actually heading for the black-diamond run right now. What else do I need to know, what should my expectations be?

Expect to be a little overwhelmed or intimidated. You can expect your body to adopt a defensive posture reflexively, even if you are not aware of any particular fear. You cannot expect to ski your best under those circumstances, so stick to the basic techniques and movements that are most comfortable for you. Don't listen to your friends if they try to show you a new technique when you are skiing something steep for the first time. It's too late to learn a new way to ski in that situation. If you think you need someone to talk you through the whole experience, book a private lesson with a pro, and tell him or her what you want up front.

And expect an adrenaline rush at the bottom!


[ December 17, 2002, 09:57 AM: Message edited by: John Dowling ]
post #9 of 19
I skied my first diamond last season, and everything people are saying about using your poles is true. Also, take the times before you start your run to choose your line. Acess the situation below you. Where do you want to make your turns? Keep in mind that things may change once you are halfway down, so stay calm, and be ready to change your course if need be.

Keep in mind, at least sometimes diamonds will have less a$$holes who belong in the learning area skiing them, so often they are not as dangerous as an overcrowded blue.
Also, certain slopes will change miday. There is a black run at Okemo that turns into a bump run after lunch. Start out by choosing the time of day that it will be easiest, at least for your first run.
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
Great, thanks all for the thoughtful replies - sounds like great advice/info. I will definately strive to employ these suggestions when the time comes.

I'm hoping to catch some time on the hill over the holiday season. I have adequate time off work; I'm hoping to head for my first black diamond sometime in the next couple of weeks, provided conditions allow it. I'll let you all know how it goes!

Thanks again,

post #11 of 19
first off: don't get caught up in the whole green/blue/black labeling mystique. i've been on blacks that were barely blues and blues that were tougher than some blacks. it's not an exact science.

second: if you can ski blues without dying, you can do likewise on most blacks - it may not be graceful but you can at least survive the black trails.

as someone said, the best part about blacks is the lack of crowds!!!
post #12 of 19

Are the blacks you are planning to try in an area you are familiar with or somewhere new? If it is somewhere new it is critical to remember the trail ratings are relative to that resort only. Take your time and work your way onto more difficult terrain slowly. Ask the local patrol or instructors to give you some guidance on the "progression" of trails. There are many resorts where a black would be a blue (or even "turquoise") somewhere else. Some blacks are much steeper than others. Also make sure your inital foray is on a recently groomed black.

Technically, as has been indicated, there are many ways to start your turn. The difficulty many otherwise proficient skiers experience is not being ready for the acceleration in the middle of a turn that steeper terrain creates, leading to all kinds of interesting reactions. Guide your skis (preferably the tips) through a smooth round arc, even steering a bit back uphill to control your speed-but don't slow down so much you stall your next turn.

An interesting drill to build up some comfort with speed in the fall line is "square" turns. Get on some light blue terrain and start a turn but stay in the fall line for a few counts then complete your turn. The do this on steeper blue terrain or with a longer count in the fall line until you become a bit more comfortable with the acceleration in the fall line. As always be careful.

One other thought, spend some time visualizing yourself skiing that steeper terrain. Feel the acceleration and see yourself smoothly steering out of the fall line.

Good Luck!! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #13 of 19
If you can, find steeper terrain that is fairly wide. Start at one side and make short turns that take you both down AND across the hill. When you get to the other side, one big turn puts you in position to make more short turns that continue to take you both down and across. As you become more accustomed to the extra forces you feel from skiing on a steeper slope, you gradually will be able to steepen the general line until you're mainly doing turns down the fall line.
post #14 of 19
See Jfiz, I said that this would happen. Just ask and you will be told. If you do make it to Laurel on Saturdays, ask at the Ski School Desk if Rob is present. Someone will point me out. I'm the one with long thinning hair, tied in a pony tail, and an increasingly thickening body : . I'll take a few runs with you and show you some steeper stuff. I will be gentle. A courtesy to Epic Bears only. Hope ta see yunz guys dare, n at.

Here we go Stillers, Here we go!

P.S. I'll give you some advice on terrain selection at Hidden Valley if you want. Send a private message. That should give me some time to check out a trail map to get trail names.

[ December 17, 2002, 03:47 PM: Message edited by: SprgHlCrz ]
post #15 of 19
Some great tips above... But my favorite (and actually, this was written up in either Ski or Skiing magazine in the current issue). Visualize it first! That is, don't even think about pushing off into terrain that is steeper/scarier then your "comfort level" until you've rehearsed the first half-dozen or so turns in your head. Take a good long look at the trail, and just visualize where those first half-dozen or so turns will be. Rehearse those turns in your mind. It sounds corny, but the body truly does achieve what the mind believes.

Also, this may have been mentioned above, but I'm a big believer in pushing off straight down the fall line. For me at least, it makes the first turn a lot easier.

My $0.02
post #16 of 19
If I may, I'd like to caution you on the biggest problem I encounter when trying to get skiers on steeper terrain for the first time.

Most start out OK until the acceleration near and in the fall line, then they let the skis get ahead of them, going a little faster than the body, and at that moment the turning will stop and the skis will go straight down the fall line and the skier from this back position will not be able to continue the turn.

Your feeling should be that your body is pulling the skis through the turn, as the skis slip faster you have to stay with them.

post #17 of 19
Stop and wait for the right time to start. Wait for the group (any others) to go ahead so you don't feel the pressure of being in the way.

While you are waiting, READ THE TERRAIN! By now you have probably realized that it is easier to use those undulations or small bumps and drops to turn your skis. We used to call this unweighting ....... but shhhhhhhhhh! We don't use that word anymore, , so pick three or four turn points that you can use and stop on the EDGE of the trail. Now pick three or four more ..... repeat ..... repeat .....

My point is that you can pick your way down in managable sections, soon four turns to a stop becomes six and six becomes ten etc.

Keep an eye out when you are scouting for things that may be a big hangup such as a crud pile, not a good place to turn. : .... ski through it and make the turn after the junk!

If you have to side slip to get out of a bad spot ..... do it ... then go back and do another run.

Fall seven times, just be sure to get up eight!

[ December 17, 2002, 05:14 PM: Message edited by: yuki ]
post #18 of 19
buy a helmet you might want it the first time down( I know I did, I got knocked out the first time went down a black. but then I was rather young) not trying to be discouraging but you can never be to carefull.

post #19 of 19
Originally posted by Jfiz:
....What general advice would you give me when I want to go ski on a black diamond slope (or a very steep blue trail) for the first time?...

For a slant (pun intended) on the situation a bit different than all the good advice given above:

1) Get used to seeing the roof of the base lodge as if you could look right down its chimney.

2) Get used to sticking out your uphill hand and finding that you can touch the hill without extending your arm fully.

3) Get used to being within a few feet of someone else on the same hill and discovering that your eyes are on the same level as their knees.

While such comments are reasonable on truly steep trails, I've had many people relay similar impressions to me their first time on easy blacks.

Basically, at some degree of steepness, everyone's fear of heights / falling will surface, so be prepared for it to happen to you.

The most likely reason is that most people think that the slope they are on is far steeper than it really is. So, if you are getting spooked because of this, stop, take a deep breath, look across the hill, and remember what a 30-60-90 and a 45-45-90 triangle look like from high school geometry. Chances are you are on something pretty close to 30 degrees, and that should provide quit a bit of reassurance (even though it feels like 60 degrees - grin).

Of course, feel free to completely ignore the previous paragraph when you are telling stories in the bar at the end of the day, back at work, etc. [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]

Tom / PM

[ December 17, 2002, 09:36 PM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
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